Most of us know the Golden Rule – Treat others the way you want to be treated. We wouldn’t want someone to steal our money, car, pet, or purse. So, in turn, don’t take those things from others. It seems so simple “don’t steal.” But if only it was that simple.
Asteya – usually the third yama – literally translated means non-stealing. It’s simple on the surface, but once we dive deeper we realize how much harder it can be in real life. We rarely talk about all the ways we steal besides physical goods. We steal time, energy, and happiness. We do this to others, but most importantly we do this to ourselves and often we don’t recognize the action.
This one can be obvious. The person that is always late for the appointment with you, they’re stealing your time. As you sit there, not replying to an email, not taking a bathroom break, not eating lunch, because you know they’ll walk in the moment you start to do any one of those things, they’re stealing your time.
Wasting our own time can be similar to stealing time. It’s one thing to binge watch a show or wander through the mall, it’s another thing to not make that appointment with a healthcare provider when you first discover an issue (eh hm, that appointment to investigate why you haven’t gotten pregnant with over a year of trying). Stealing time from ourselves is to do something that is counter productive, and even worse do it continuously, or to avoid something you know must be done that could have repercussions down the road (think not paying your credit card bill in full on time).
Sometimes in the yoga world we call them “energy-vampires.” They’re that person in your life that you can only handle in small doses and you’re really not sure why. You usually get along. You enjoy each other’s time. But at the end of your meetups (and it could have been over coffee) you feel drained. There are many reasons why this person could be an energy drain. They could talk continuously, they could force you to talk continuously. They could be the type of person that is persuasive and gets you to say “yes” to something when you would have said “no.” They could share all of their problems (or someone else’s) with you. Or it could be something totally different.
Now how do you steal your own energy? The obvious is by not nurturing yourself. Having more than that extra doughnut. Going a week without any physical activity. Working out too hard too many days in a row. Working too many hours. Drinking too much alcohol. Drinking too much coffee. Wearing clothes that are too tight. The list goes on, and on, and on.
But there are other ways you could steal your own energy. One is by not working through your own problems. These are the things that keep you up at night, make it hard for you to sleep, or wake you up before you’re fully rested. Whether it’s with relationships (friendship, co-worker, partner, or family), finances, work, personal development and growth, or spiritual, take some time to address them as they come up. Sometimes it’s not possible to confront them head on, but taking a few moments to journal about your approach to, or your thoughts on, the situation can help you sleep better at night. When you can lift the burdens off of your shoulders (or up just a little), you’ll be able to divert your energy to the areas where it’s most needed.
When you’re on the infertility journey it’s that moment when your friend, that swore she never wanted to have children, tells you how happy she is that she’s pregnant. It doesn’t matter what you were happy about before, honestly you could have even been sad, but at that moment your heart sinks a little deeper.
We steal our own happiness quite often, but it’s often reframed as deprivation. You avoid your favorite foods so you can fit into that bridesmaid dress in a few weeks. You agreed to do that thing with your energy-vampire friend because, well, you don’t know why. And you obsess over each twinge and tweak you feel during the two week wait every month even though you know it’ll only drive you crazy. Stealing our own happiness can be the hardest thing to remedy, afterall the Buddha spent a lifetime doing that before becoming enlightened.
One thing we can do is practice mindfulness and notice these moments. Don’t worry about doing anything, or changing anything, just notice. Over time you’ll notice the moment sooner and stop yourself.